Social media | University of Oxford
Students taking selfie
Students taking a selfie
Credit: Shutterstock / William Perugini

Social media

29 top tips for creating and managing effective social media channels

1. Don’t spread yourself too thin. There are many possible channels but you may only have time to run a couple properly. Be strong on the few you choose not weak on a dozen of them.

 2. Identify your audience and choose the channels they use. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular. If you want to reach alumni then Linked In may be a better fit. If all you want to post are images then consider Instagram, for example.

 3. What are you trying to achieve? Is your channel a representation of your whole school/department or just a part of it such as teaching or research? Identify this and focus your posts on it. Identify some goals, what will success look like for you?

 4. What are different channels for? For example, Twitter is excellent for breaking news, linking to content elsewhere and having conversations with your followers; Facebook is great for photo and video content. Don’t replicate the same content across different channels.

 5. Be patient. It takes time to see results from social media. You need time to develop relationships and establish a credible reputation with your audience. It may start slow but keep at it, it will grow if you put the time in and produce quality content.

6. You need analytics and monitoring. What was successful? What wasn’t? Use Facebook Insights, use Twitter analytics, try a social media solution such as HootSuite or Sprout Social.

7. Create a social media calendar. Think about what you are trying to achieve and plan posts that will help you get there. Always leaving it to the last minute will make it a stressful and time consuming task and that will result in it not being done. You won’t always have fresh new messages to post, so pre-prepared ‘on brand’ messages are useful.

8. Post regularly but don’t swamp – and only post when you have something interesting to say, not for the sake of it. You can post more frequently on Twitter but it is much more about interaction and re-tweeting.

9. Monitor when your posts get most attention. Facebook Insights will show you this. The main University Facebook channel has a peak posting time of 4-5 pm because the audience is worldwide: in the East it’s evening, in Europe the embers of the work day, and it’s morning in the Americas.

10. Don’t delete negative posts, being social means accepting different opinions and indeed responding to criticism. However, you can delete blatant spam and you must certainly delete and block individuals posting anything obscene, inciting hatred and other offensive messages. It can be beneficial to draft a Terms of Use document that clearly outlines what is and isn't acceptable.

11. Don’t enter into arguments or be baited by trolls. If someone posts inaccuracies it is better to deflate the situation by politely saying that that is not true and, ideally, adding a link to a page on your website which give the correct information. If in doubt, it is always preferable to check with the News and Information Office to get the official University line on matters before replying. In some instances the Legal Services Office may also need to be consulted.

12. Fill out every part of your profile, it can save unnecessary basic questions from your audience and it sets the tone for your channel. This includes header images and background images that help to tell your story or create a good impression. Use any opportunity to establish your brand reputation.

13. Build a relationship. Don’t just broadcast, engage them, ask them questions, get them involved and aim to promptly reply to their questions. The important word in social media is 'social'.

14. Aim to make it ‘special’. Offer fun things like early sign-ups to events and first looks at new content to your audience. They may not take you up on the offer but it will still be appreciated. But don’t spam or sell them stuff; one post about an event is enough, one every day for two weeks will lose you followers.

15. Social media is not an afterthought tacked on to a junior staff member’s role. It is time consuming and requires good judgment, initiative and creativity. The person running the Facebook channel with several thousand followers is speaking to more people directly on a daily basis than the Director of the office. Hire someone to do it properly and value them.

16. Cross promote. You are part of a large university and there are dozens of people here also posting good content. Keep an eye on the good ones and share/retweet their messages. Let them know you do this and they may return the favour.

17. Make sharing easy. If you have a video to promote, post it to Facebook, don’t just put it up on You Tube and think that the job is done.

18. Patrol your online reputation. Make a list of all the ways that your college, department, school, etc. is referred to then set up Google Alerts for each. You can’t be watching all social media channels all the time but Google can and it’ll send you an email alert. The quicker you can spot a comment which is slanderous or inaccurate, the quicker you can neutralise it.

19. And the flip side of the alerts is that it also uncovers positive posts about you which you can share. Our shares about Oxford-related Buzzfeed items have been some of our most popular.

20. Different channels need different content. Don’t just put out the same message or post on every network. A tweet and a Facebook message are very different and it looks lazy and inept when you see one in the wrong place.

21. Good use of social media can help boost your search rankings – social messages are playing a growing part in search ranking algorithms. When influencers and genuine people follow you then it helps build your reputation in the eyes of the search engines.

22. Look at the demographics and locations of your audience. Plan messages around this. Are they mainly young? Wish them good luck at exam time. Are they largely overseas? Find out when they have national celebration days and religious festivals. Simple, thoughtful gestures show that you actually have an interest in the people you are connected to not just in the like or follower number they are a part of.

23. On Twitter: keep your message short and concise, feel free to ask people to retweet important messages, and use a link shortener like po.st to track clickthroughs on your links. Look at whether there are any popular hashtags currently being used that you can add to join in the wider conversation.

24. On Facebook: if you mention another part of the University and you know they have a Facebook page type @theirname and FB should find it and create a link to it in your post. You can ‘target’ posts, click the target icon and choose a filter such as age or location.

25. Images win every time. You could post a message and link about the cure for cancer being discovered one day and a picture of ducklings in a quad the next and that picture will get 3-5 times more likes and shares. Luckily Oxford is very photogenic so use this to your advantage.

26. Think mobile. Your audience is very likely to be viewing your channel on mobile. If what you’re posting has a link back to your website then it better be a responsive website or you’re going to be repeatedly frustrating the people you’re trying to impress and engage.

27. Grammar and spelling matters. Check and double check everything you put on social media. Type it in Notepad first to spell check it then paste it in. Typos are embarrassing, possibly much more so coming from Oxford, and the eagle-eyed audience will let you know.

28. The Digital Communications team manages the main university social media channels and we are happy to post your messages. Bookmark and make use of our online submission form now: http://po.st/digicomms-form.

29. So what’s the deal with a list of 29 things? Apart from it being a prime number it’s probably why you read this in the first place. Now share this list! 

A million likes: how big is a million? 

In early 2013 we realised that if our Facebook channel continued to increase steadily then within the month we would be the first UK University to reach one million 'likes'. How could we both celebrate this milestone and thank those who made up this audience? We brewed some coffee and started discussing and writing down our ideas.

A clear front runner was an animation based around how large a million was illustrated with facts gathered about the University; its collections, its outreach work, its research and student satisfaction rates. We took inspiration from the classic Charles and Ray Eames film 'Powers of Ten'. A storyboard was quickly created, reviewed, improved upon and signed off, and then Tom Wilkinson, at the time our sole filmmaker, got to work to produce the short film.

Facebook screenThe moment before the millionth like

The message with the You Tube embed was created on the morning of the 18 of April when we were just a few dozen short of the million. An hour later, after numerous refreshes of our page, it clicked over into 7 figures and we published the message.

The message had a reach of more than 54,000 people, was liked 400+ times and received dozens of shares and comments. The video has been viewed more than 9,000 times.  

It took approximately 5 years to build an audience of 1,000,000. It only took 19 months to double that figure to 2,000,000.

Social media best practice, insight and strategy

Took place on 24 February 2015

Stuart Fowkes, Head of Digital Communications (maternity cover), discussed how to develop a social media strategy and offered advice about best practice.

Social media analytics

Took place on 27 October 2014

Head of Digital Communications, Suzi Ardley, discussed common metrics used in digital communications and showed how these can be used to assist in evaluating your communications activities.

How do you know if you’re doing it right? Evaluating social media impact

Took place on 6 June 2013

As social media’s place in our communications strategies grows, it is important that we are able to measure the impact of what we do online. This workshop will explore various tools and strategies for evaluating and reporting on social media impact and connecting it to your organisational goals and strategy. Liz McCarthy, Communications and Social Media Officer from the Bodleian Libraries, will deliver this workshop.

'We've got digital marketing covered: we've got a Facebook page!'

Took place on 26 February and 7 March 2013

For many, digital marketing activity has crept up on us and suddenly we’re expected to engage with our prospective students through the scary world of social media. However, having a University Facebook page or Twitter feed does not mean we are successful at engaging with a digital audience. Some of the best social campaigns are fully integrated both online and offline, engage with a targeted audience and prove a measurable return on investment. This workshop, which was run by Lizzie Burrows, Student Recruitment Officer in the Admissions Office, discussed good (and not so good!) examples of this, with some tips for your own campaigns. It is aimed at colleagues who have recently been given digital marketing as part of their remit or are interested in innovative ways to connect with prospective students.

Digital Communications Office

General contact: digicomms@admin.ox.ac.uk

Head of Digital Communications
Suzi Ardley
Tel: 01865 280474, email: suzi.ardley@admin.ox.ac.uk

Web Officer
Stephen Sangar
Tel: 01865 280550, email: stephen.sangar@admin.ox.ac.uk

Web Officer
Christopher Eddie
Tel: 01865 280546, email: christopher.eddie@admin.ox.ac.uk

Assistant Web Officer
Richard Watts
Tel: 01865 270280, email: richard.watts@admin.ox.ac.uk

Content and Social Media Officer
Jessica Turner
Tel: 01865 280536, email: jessica.turner@admin.ox.ac.uk

Creative Media Manager
Tom Wilkinson
Tel: 01865 280076, email: tom.wilkinson@admin.ox.ac.uk

Creative Media Manager (research)
Tom Fuller
Tel: 01865 270775, email: tom.fuller@admin.ox.ac.uk